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Getting the Care You Need During the Coronavirus Outbreak



As more doctors and health facilities limit access during the COVID-19 outbreak, telemedicine becomes your first option for care. Here’s how to make a virtual visit.​

By Howard Cutler, Vice President, Health Care Delivery

As New Jersey faces a surging number of coronavirus cases, one place most people don’t belong right now is the doctor’s office. And with social distancing now more important than ever, your doctor probably doesn’t want you in the office either.

The health care system is being pressured like never before. Staying away from health care facilities allows doctors and nurses to focus on preparing and caring for the most acutely sick among us, including people with COVID-19, the coronavirus. It also helps reduce the risk that you and your doctor are exposed to the virus, slowing the spread of disease and saving lives.

If you don’t need care for a major health problem, your first option should be through telemedicine. New rules put in place until June 30, 2020 by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) make it even easier to visit with your doctor or therapist by phone or through a doctor’s telemedicine platform.

These “virtual visits” can be an effective way to consult with your doctor about the kinds of things you’d typically schedule an office appointment for: persistent headaches, earache, nausea, a fever, cold and flu symptoms, eye irritations, and mild rashes. If you need a follow-up visit after surgery or treatment for an illness, there’s a good chance your doctor can take care of that over the phone too.

Horizon BCBSNJ is also encouraging members to take care of their mental health this same way. Visits with a therapist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker or other mental health professionals can also take place by phone or video.

For Horizon BCBSNJ members, access to telemedicine has never been easier. And the changes we’ve put in place also means it’s never been more affordable for Horizon BCBSNJ members. Telemedicine and telephone visits for covered services will have no out-of-pocket costs when provided by an in-network doctor or health professional. Out-of-network doctors can provide covered services by phone or telemedicine, but you’ll still have to pay your share just as you would if the visit took place in an office.

One thing to remember: with so many people turning to telemedicine, wait times are much longer than usual for most services, so plan accordingly.


Here’s how you can use telemedicine:


1. Call your doctor to see if they offer telemedicine. Your doctor’s office may have a patient portal that allows you to schedule a telemedicine visit. This may be your quickest way to see a doctor, especially if you are an established patient.

2. The next best option is to ask if your doctor can take care of your visit over the phone or through a video service like FaceTime or Skype. Just like all routine, primary care, mental health or follow-up office visits, no prior authorization is required.

3. If your doctor doesn’t offer either of these options, consider looking for another in-network health professional who does – even if only to get care for this one situation. New Jersey’s major health systems and practice groups have telemedicine programs.

Here are some links to health care organizations in New Jersey that offer information about their telemedicine services online:

4. The Horizon Blue app now offers expanded access to online care and has been updated specifically to help members who suspect they may have COVID-19, the coronavirus. Members with access to 24/7 Nurse Chat on the app can screen for COVID-19 and be connected directly to a doctor for a telemedicine evaluation if needed. Of course, you can also use 24/7 Nurse Chat on the app to speak with a nurse about other health concerns, get directed to a doctor for a telemedicine visit when needed and even get a prescription when appropriate. To download the app, simply text “GetApp” to 422-272 or search for “HorizonBlue” in the Apple or Google app stores.

5. Still can’t find telemedicine services? You can use your computer or mobile device to connect to Horizon CareOnline℠. Some Horizon BCBSNJ members have coverage for care delivered by CareOnline. If your plan doesn’t include coverage, you can still use CareOnline by paying a small fee.

  • Horizon CareOnline℠. Talk with a U.S. board-certified, licensed doctor via video, chat or phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No appointments are required, and ePrescriptions can be provided by the doctor if needed. Note that not all members have coverage for this service and those without coverage will incur out-of-pocket charges. Be sure to check your eligibility before logging in. TIP: If you are using CareOnline, please note wait times may be longer than usual given the number of members calling in across the country. In addition, please DO NOT close or minimize the app once you get in the virtual line to see a doctor as this will result in you losing your place and needing to start over once you return to the CareOnline app.
  • Horizon BCBSNJ’s Nurse Phone Line. When you need reliable health information quickly, get instant advice from a registered nurse at any time of day. Commercially insured members can access this service at 1-888-624-3096, and members covered through Medicaid plans can speak with a nurse at 1-800-711-5952. SHBP/SEHBP members have access to the Nurse Line and their Horizon Health Guide service using 1-800-414-SHBP.

As New Jersey deals with the rapidly developing coronavirus outbreak, Horizon BCBSNJ continues to provide comprehensive support for its members. In addition to making telemedicine more accessible, Horizon BCBSNJ is waiving prior authorizations for a COVID-19 diagnosis, covering the full cost of the COVID-19 test and increasing access to prescription medicines for our members.

Get more details about the initial steps Horizon BCBSNJ is taking here.